The tortillas crackled on the hotplate under the midday sun. The second they reached their prime crispiness, the vendor whipped them off the heat and onto a plastic plate. With her other hand, she smothered them in refried beans, cheese and chilli hotter than the sun overhead. Within seconds, the meal was being munched down by a group of children. On the other side of the square, an old man in a cowboy hat dozed off.
This was the scene I was presented with when I arrived in the main square of Barrio Xanenetla, just outside the city of Puebla’s colonial heart. It was a lazy Saturday afternoon, and the neighbourhood was quiet, except for the group of kids clustered around the gordita stand. Around 400 years old, the barrio of Xanenetla was originally a Tlaxcalteca settlement outside Puebla proper. Although the neighbourhood has long been engulfed by the city, it remains a quiet, relaxed escape from the bustle of the city center.
But it isn’t gorditas or peace and quiet that make Xanenetla worth visiting: it’s the murals. A few years back, a local art collective decided it was time to spruce up sleepy old Xanenetla. Working with local residents, Colectivo Tomate worked for close to a year to produce a collection of strikingly creative murals throughout Xanenetla’s winding streets.
As the collective has explained on their own blog (well worth following), the objective of the mural project was to rejuvenate “forgotten and [devalued] communities in Puebla, Mexico, dignify their urban aesthetics and promote the expression of muralism as a link tool between artists and residents of the community.”
Colectivo Tomate now say they have plans to create more murals across Puebla. If the stunning street art in Xanenetla is a taster of what’s to come, then for anyone passing through Puebla, this city wide project is an initiative well worth keeping an eye on.